Matcha muffins

When-life-gives-you3

I agree it’s not as catchy as the lemons and lemonade but I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation here (i.e. 100g of bad matcha). These muffins are easy to make and taste great but they are not the bright green I was hoping for. To fit the part for this weekend I’ll try making them again with maybe 3 tbsp of matcha.

This recipe is adapted from a breakfast muffin recipe that a friend gave me but these muffins could not be considered healthy. To gain the benefits of matcha it probably needs to be taken withouth sugar and white flour. ;-)

Matcha muffins:

  • 2 eggsmatcha muffins
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml rapeseed oil
  • 200ml plain low-fat yoghurt
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp matcha
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 100g chopped hazelnut

Whisk eggs, sugar and oil together in a bowl. Then add the yoghurt.

Sift flour, salt, matcha and ginger together and stir into egg mixture.

Add hazelnuts and then spoon into muffin cases.

Bake for 20 minutes at 175°C.

Tea Gifts

Maybe I’m biased but I think that tea makes a lovely gift. To coincide with the season of giving, below are some tea recommendations that are likely to be well-recieved. Shipping to Ireland is a bit of an issue and regularly seems to double the cost so the list below is specifically aimed at readers from Ireland and the UK.

Palais Des Thés - Thé N°25

Palais Des Thés – Thé N°25 (Source)

 

I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like the Rooibos Christmas Tea from Palais Des Thés (Thé N°25 Rooibos). This tea smells of spices and orange goes perfectly with a fire and mince pies. €7.50 is not unreasonable for the 100g pouch but as a gift, the metal tin would make for nicer presentation (€14). Delivery is a hefty €8 to Ireland and UK but they have a shop in Dublin Centre if you can make it there to pick it up.

Thé N°25 also comes in white, green and chai but for me rooibos is the clear winner as a Christmas tea and because rooibos has no caffeince it can be enjoyed in the evenings.

 

WTE Darjeeling sampler box

WTE Darjeeling sampler box (Source)

 

The presentation tin for this Darjeeling sampler box makes it perfect for gift-giving. It comes from Whittington’s Tea Emporium and inside are three high quality Darjeeling teas from Postcard Tea, Canton Tea Co. and Tea Studio. There is a full sheet of information on each tea including a description of the estate, tasting notes, brewing instructions etc. This is a great way to experiment and compare three high quality first flush Darjeelings from different estates and at £7.50 it is also excellent value.  WTE also offer other sampler boxes for Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Jasmine and Sencha.

 

 

In keeping with the sampler theme, House of Tea here in Dublin have some good starter packs. The China Selection contains 13 teas (various weights) for €28. (€5 P&P to Ireland). I havn’t sampled very many of these teas but I bought this selection for my sister a few years ago and she seemed very happy with it.

 

Postcard Teas - Ishikawa Matcha

Postcard Teas – Ishikawa Matcha (Source)

 

You could randomly pick any tea from Postcard Teas and it would make a great gift. They are known for having high quality tea from small farms and providing the precise origin of each tea. Some of my favourites are the Baozong green (£9 for 20g) and the Ishikawa Matcha (£19.95 for and the 40g). Shipping charges to Ireland depends on items purchased but it is usually £4-5 for an order of three teas.

 

 

Koyu Ceremonial Matcha Bowl Set

Koyu Matcha Bowl Set (Source)

 

Speaking of Matcha, I came across Koyu Matcha a few weeks ago and think that this Ceremonial Matcha Bowl Set would make a lovely gift for someone who likes matcha. It includes the bowl, whisk, scoop and Matcha tea for €51 (+€2.20 P&P to Ireland).

 

 

 

 

Blue Play Teaset

Blue Play Teaset (Source)

 

And finally, Christmas is a special time for children and having a pretend tea-party is an good way to round up the teddys and the dolls that haven’t seen each other in a while. I know from my nephew that tea parties are not just for girls so here is blue one made from tin that comes in a case. IKEA also have a cute tea set for €11. Extra imagination is needed for this one because it doesn’t come with a teapot!

Stale tea

Last weekend we spring-cleaned the kitchen (we are late for 2013 spring cleaning not early for 2014!). In the process, I found some very old matcha, which makes for an interesting comparison with the fresh matcha that I bought last week.

Matcha - Fresh and StaleHere are the photos. You can see that the fresh matcha is striking bright green but the old one is a dull, grey-green. Tea doesn’t spoil with time but it does loose its flavour and colour especially if exposed to air. Matcha is one of the brisker tea on the fading process. Ideally it should be used within a few weeks of opening but keeping it in an airtight container in the fridge can extend this a little. I’m ashamed to say that the old matcha was not in an airtight container, not in the fridge and has probably been on the shelf for well over a year. In other words, a perfect storm of matcha degradation!

 

The old matcha still has a strong vegetal aroma but it doesn’t form the nice froth and the taste is unpleasant and slightly sour.

Brewed Matcha - Fresh and Stale

Not all the examples of stale tea are as obvious as matcha and of course it varies with vacuum sealing, conditions etc. but here are the general rules that I use:  greens: within 4/5 months (of the harvest date), light oolongs and early Darjeeling: within 6/7 months, black tea (apart from Darjeeling) within 12-18 months, pu-ehr and heavily roasted oolongs: whenever they’re ready – both improve with age.

For the teas that don’t age, I have a terrible habit of not drinking them quickly enough. When I find a tea that I love, I sometimes wait until I can make enough time to really enjoy it, or the right occasion, or someone to share it with. Some fine teas have been lost in this way and the matcha was a good reminder. From now on, I am going to be dedicated in keeping my tea list updated with the date of purchase/harvest. That might sound nerdy but it’s nothing compared to the plans I have for rules in excel and automatic colour coding depending on the best time to drink ;-).

Matcha

Matcha (or maccha) is a uniquely Japanese tea that comes as a finely ground powder. It is a green tea, but unlike most teas where the liquid is poured off the leaves, with matcha the powder is whisked into the liquid and ingested whole.

Matcha and chasen (bamboo whisk)

Matcha is made from the tips of budding tea-bushes that have been shaded with bamboo mats (or black tarp) for approximately three weeks of their spring growth. Less sunlight means less photosynthesis, which is how the plant generates energy and grows. Under the shade, the tea plants spread out and become thin and tender. They compensate for the lack of sunlight by increasing the amount of chlorophyll. Chorloryphyll is a pigment that absorbs red and blue light but reflects green (hence the green colour) so increasing the chlorophyll gives the leaves a bright green colour. After picking, the leaves are steamed, air dried and the main part of the leaf are separated from the stems and veins to produce tencha. The tencha is then ground using granite wheels to make the bright green, fine, matcha powder.

The video from o-cha.com shows the covering of the tea plants with bamboo and straw, the shaded hand-plucking and then the processing that takes place afterwards to make both gyokuro and matcha.

Matcha generally comes in three grades. The highest grade is Koicha (thick tea) and this is used in Japanese tea ceremonies to make a dense, viscous tea. Usucha (thin tea) is the second grade and it is used in Japanese tea ceremonies to make a more diluted thin tea with frothy foam. Finally, cooking matcha is used as an ingredient to make food like matcha ice-cream, cakes etc.

Matcha has the reputation of going stale quickly so if you are making the investment (matcha is a comparatively expensive green tea), it is worthwhile paying a little extra for a good quality matcha that is fresh. Matcha is not something that I will always have in the house. I’ll generally buy about 35g and then drink it every day until it’s gone (known in my house as the matcha-spree!).

To prepare matcha you will need a bamboo tea whisk (chasen). It is also helpful to have a tea bowl (chawan) and a tea ladel (chashaku) but these can be substituted with a flat bottomed bowl and a teaspoon. The bowl is pre-heated, then dried and about 2g of matcha powder is added with the ladel. Some people sieve the matcha to break the small lumps but I just break them up with the tip of the whisk. Water at approx 80°C is added and then the mixture is whisked until smooth with a back and forth motion (like writing a “W”) rather than a circular motion. The matcha is suspended in the hot water during whisking (not dissolved) which means that matcha particles will settle to the bottom of the bowl if it is left to stand so enjoy immediately.

I bought my current batch of matcha (Ishikawa Matcha) in Postcard Teas, London and it cost £20 for a 40g refill pack.